Cyril from Swissnex just asked me to write more about my first talks with people here. So I try to do that right away.
It’s almost impossible to meet somebody who is not working for a software company or is trying to found one or is in other way part of the ecosystem (see below). The other day I was down in San Jose for a Iaido seminar and I was basically sitting with people from Zynga in a car.
San Francisco and the Valley: this means you constantly tell your story and others pitch theirs to you and you check if there is a personal or business fit or both. This also means ideas are swarming around you constantly.
My first kind of business focused talks were with some people at the Social-Loco Conference. What became apparent is that there is an ecosystem regarding the mobile space, and for us more specifically the QR Code/EAN/NFC space, There is a market and there is data and there are competitors and analysts and investors (angels and VC’s) and lawyers and now also crowdfunding (Kickstarter). All this works hand in hand.
This is one of the first things you notice here. Whereas in Europe we often tend to hang loosely in the air and have to establish the market ourselves through the seller-buyer relationship, here your backdrop is always the ecosystem.
The ecosystem is the base and new markets emerge in it and get established quickly. And because the US market is so huge in itself, even niches can be one billion dollar markets.
The ecosystem extends also to founders and cofounders. I met several people who had a vague idea of what they want to do and looked for a cofounder. Or founders who looked out for an idea. This kind of behaviour I guess is only possible when the ecosystem is around for it.
THE AMERICAN WAY OF DOING THINGS
In Europe generating revenue quickly is considered more important then creating a huge market and dominating it, so our european business models tend to be much more short term focused in general. And it seems almost impossible to create a market in Europe as size really matters.
This was very obvious in discussions I had with my first hosts who happen to be entrepreneurs, lawyers and biz dev people. They tend to favor the free model to get more potential future customers later. This almost always means you need a lot of cash before you can cash in. And here in the Valley, it is possible to get seed funding of 2 Mio USD. Where else is this possible?
PIVOT AND FIND THE SWEET SPOT
Starting your business and pivoting is considered normal. Pivoting is also the only way to avoid failure. And therefore there is a lot of tryin out as a business mentality. In Switzerland we tend to have almost 5 year plans after the soviet model. The absurd cult of the business plan in Switzerland is striking in this regard. Here you just have to nail it somehow and then you are starting to get interesting.
Also the time horizon is here significantly shorter – one year tends to be a time span that people consider as normal – as they all know that within a year everything can change.
PING ME/REACTION TIME
One of the more striking things in comparison to Switzerland is how fast meetings are set up. Whereas we tend to have agendas that push meetings back to one and half months easily, here meetings happen today, tomorrow or at least in the same week. And nobody aks for references but intros or your story has always to be good.
Naturally the attention span is accordingly – but how could it be otherwise.
Regarding customers this also means the reaction time should be as short as possible. And this is why we need to be here.
THE ABSENCE OF POWERPOINT
In the last three weeks, I have only seen one powerpoint deck and it was halfway hidden by a curtain at a conference and showed only about 5 slides.
So how ideas are presented? – It’s all in the talking.